Christian Bale: from Batman to boxing glory

For British actor Christian Bale, who won best supporting actor Oscar on Sunday, the triumph is the high point of a film career which started more than two decades ago, at the tender age of 13.

The 37-year-old "Batman" star secured the movie world's top accolade for his role as drug-addled trainer Dicky Eklund in "The Fighter," about an Irish-American boxer struggling to emerge from his older brother's shadow.

In keeping with his reputation for intense devotion to roles, Bale - star of 2000's "American Psycho" - shed pounds to play the role of crack addict, Eklund.

But the Welsh-born actor blasted one critic's suggestion that his physical transformation in his movie roles, including this one, was a "gimmick."

"To be honest, I find it laughable that it's considered to be some... gimmick - it's so patronizing. For God's sake, do people not understand what a pain it is to do?" he told the Australian edition of Empire magazine.

"It's as though it's ... 'Oh it's easy for him, because he's done it a bunch of times.' It's not easy, it's not fun - it's horrible," he said.

He added: "It's a part that I like and he's a welterweight and he's a crackhead. I don't know about you, but I've never seen a welterweight with any fat on him - or a crackhead. So it's just what you end up having to do."

Bale, whose step-mother is feminist icon Gloria Steinem, followed his older sister Louise into acting from a young age, appearing first in commercials for products including a Pac-man themed breakfast cereal.

His big-screen break came at the age of only 13, in Steven Spielberg's 1987 World War II epic "Empire of the Sun," playing an English boy struggling under Japanese occupation in Shanghai, China.

Bale continued to garner critical acclaim as he took on more grown up roles, including playing Demetrius in the 1999 film version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with Kevin Kline and Michelle Pfeiffer.

The following year he created a sensation as yuppie serial killer Patrick Bateman in "American Psycho" before hitting the box office big time as Bruce Wayne in "Batman Begins" in 2005 and "The Dark Knight" three years later.

Bale's nomination for "The Fighter" was his first Oscars nod, although he has won a number of awards, including a Golden Globe for the Dicky Eklund role last month.